Patriarch Youssef

Why attack places of worship, and especially churches?

22 11 2013



Why attack places of worship, and especially churches?


The Syrian crisis is severely affecting various sectors of civilian life and the number of victims of this “world” war is growing day by day. In this war against Syria the nature of the so-called opposition no longer resembles what it appeared to be on 16 March 2011 at the outset of the crisis.


Evidence of that can be found in the statements of envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Mr Kofi Anan published in several European newspapers in September 2013, that there are some two thousand foreign groups fighting in Syria. They are all Salafist fundamentalists and extremists, relentlessly killing in cruel fashion in the name of Islam, although Islam has nothing to do with them or they with it.


These groups have committed the most cruel crimes and bestial acts that have horrified the minds of those who saw them on television or on modern social communication media and hurt the feelings of every man, woman and child both at home and abroad. It represents a return to the darkest episodes of antiquity and has even outstripped them.…


Those hordes have destroyed and laid waste places of worship (mosques and churches), and looted statues, furnishings, icons of Our Lord, the Virgin Mary and the saints.


Never before in its history has Syria experienced any such monstrous, criminal acts. All Christian and Muslim citizens used to live in harmony, affection, solidarity, mutual help, national community … such that it was considered an Arab and world model.


We wonder at these deeds and address the doers, reminding them of their humanity and the fact that they are created in the image and likeness of God, they are precious in God’s eyes and we acknowledge their worth, which is common to us all... We wonder and ask them, why do you commit these actions? Why destroy mosques and churches? They know very well that our churches are schools of peace and our institutions fields of service and dedication and that we have no political party, no hatred in our hearts, no vengeance against anyone whatsoever. On the contrary, we are agents of peace calling for love, living together, solidarity, reconciliation and forgiveness...


In writing this appeal, it is not at all my intention to condemn or judge those who destroy our churches: God alone is Judge. Instead we forgive them and pray for them and their salvation, imploring God to open their eyes to the beauty of faith, love, friendship, and tenderness that fills the pages of the Qur’an in every verse - the compassion of God for all. We advise and request them to return to their own countries and there live a humane, worthy life in their families and among their own people.


We write these lines and report the facts about the destruction of mosques and especially churches, and the inhumane acts, so that the world can wake up and open its eyes to the realisation of the true brutal reality of these things reported, and work to stop them and halt all kinds of killing and violence, for the victim of all this is man, created in the image and likeness of God.


We call upon everyone to coordinate their efforts and those of Arab and other countries to prevent such cruelties against the dignity of man, because they are war crimes against humanity. It is not always the perpetrator who is responsible, but the one who does not work to prevent and condemn them, but rather encourages, incites and funds them with money and weapons and fills hearts with hatred and enmity...


We decided to give the information contained in this appeal to highlight the brutality of these acts. We hope for the world’s conscience to be aroused to the realisation of this state of affairs and for everyone to agree to walk along the path of peace to Geneva II to build a new world where love and the values ​​of our holy faith reign, as this should be the road for all of us Christian and Muslim politicians and leaders, and Eastern and Western heads of state. That is how we can respond to Pope Francis’s appeal, "No more war." That is why we are publishing these gloomy, black lists in the Appendix (attached).


We extend this appeal with an open evangelical Christian spirit of love to the conscience of those who have committed and continue to commit these actions and attacks, especially against Christian places of worship. We appeal to the conscience of those who stand behind them and even to the conscience of the whole world.


We hope and pray for the cessation of these actions that are destroying not just places of worship, but the image of God in man and are causing all kinds of suffering, disaster, grief and destruction.


I ask my dear faithful not to allow forgiveness to give way to hatred in your hearts. Resist feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration and discouragement despite the various reasons for them of which we are all aware. Face up to this with patience and faith. Do not leave; do not abandon your homeland Syria, which has been rightly called the cradle of Christianity! We have our origins and roots here, going back over two thousand years of history.


I hope that anyone reading this letter may accept it in a positive, civilised way.


We pray, Christ our God, confirm the holy Orthodox faith in our churches and monasteries unto ages of ages! Lord, save thy people and bless thine inheritance. Grant peace to Syria and to the world. And keep thy faithful!


Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, let us invoke her intercession and protection, and let us entrust one another and all our lives unto Christ our God! Deliver us, O Virgin, from every temptation, barbarian invasion and peril that we deserve due to our sins.


With my love and blessing


Gregorios III